(Lotus F1 Team)
How important was it to get those points from Romain after the frustrations of the first two races?
It was very important. We knew that we had a competitive car and it was frustrating in
Sepang and in Melbourne not to get any points on the board. It’s great for the team to have scored these points in Shanghai.
What went well in China, and where needs improvements?
We were quite happy with the balance of the car in China, certainly by qualifying. We had struggled a bit with too much understeer on the Friday but the race team did a great job of re-balancing the car for Saturday and the car was much improved for Saturday’s qualifying session and for the race. Of course there is more we need to do to improve the overall performance of the car - for example generating more grip in some of the low speed corners, and perhaps improving our traction as well. Generally we feel that we have a good balance to work with now. The drivers continue to find the E23 easy to drive they can put the car on the limit well and they seem to be liking the balance. Overall, they feel they can get the most out of it and that’s a big positive.
The team looked very much to be the fourth fastest in China – is that a fair refection of the current state of play?
Fourth fastest was certainly true in China. Red Bull still show flashes of being pretty quick and given their development rate, they’ll be hard to keep behind. We haven’t got a big gap to Sauber and Toro Rosso. It’s a very tight grid and we have to keep bringing performance upgrades to maintain this position and then start to improve competitiveness.
What can be done to close the gap and tackle those ahead?
Development is key and we have more aero updates in the pipeline. Obviously it is very tight in the mid-field and it will be a development race between ourselves, Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Sauber. We are all aiming at closing the gap to Williams.
The team’s shown well in Bahrain in the past – how do you think the 2015 iteration could fare?
I believe that we can fare quite well. We’ve seen in Melbourne, Sepang and Shanghai that the car has run pretty well at all those different tracks and we have had cars in Q3 in all those races. The E23 hasn’t shown any particular vices that mean that we’ll perform less well on certain circuits. I expect that we can be in a similar position to China in Bahrain this weekend.
Malaysia was pretty hot and the car and PU did suffer in a couple of areas; is everything looking well addressed in these areas?
We were probably a bit aggressive in how we configured the cooling system for Sepang and we certainly could have been more conservative. Despite Bahrain being one of the hottest tracks of the year we don’t anticipate any problems cooling the PU.
Three races in, what are your thoughts on the tyre performance and allocations so far?
Ultimately we would probably favour tyres to be one step softer to make the races that bit more interesting. Nonetheless, the tyre allocation being the same for all teams, it is a matter of how we use them and we feel pretty happy with our tyre management.
How did the upgrades work in China and anything new to pull out of the bag for Bahrain?
We had a number of aero updates in China that worked pretty well and that we kept on the car throughout the weekend. There are a few more upgrades for Bahrain however with the tight turnaround they will be reasonably small ones but still well worth fitting on the E23.
What’s the schedule once the team gets back after the first four flyaways and ahead of the start of the European season?
There will be an important programme in place with the three week gap until the Spanish
Grand Prix. The cars will make their return to Enstone where the mechanics will strip the chassis. We will give the E23 a good re-fresh! They will be repainted, spend some time on the seven-post rig, etc. We will have a reasonably heavy workload up to Barcelona with some sizeable upgrades to put on the car for the first European race of the season.
© Ben Johnston 2015